Where’d my comfort zone go?


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



Everyone has a comfort zone. It’s that feeling that surrounds them when they are performing a specific duty or activity that provides them with a feeling of familiarity and well-being; a feeling of confidence in the activity. We all have our own personal comfort zones.

A person might be an excellent communicator. They might be able to explain truly complex issues in writing. They might be able to make your heart melt or bring tears to your eyes with their creative style of writing but give them a stage and a microphone and they might get cold, clammy and tongue-tied because they are totally out of their… comfort zone.

We all have comfort zones. Most married couples divide the household chores based upon what they are most comfortable doing. It may sound sexist. It may be somewhat sexist, but chores are usually divided up based on gender.

Debbie and I have been married for 31 years. In the first weeks of marriage, our chores seemed to divide up naturally. I don’t remember Debbie ever pulling the starting cord on the lawnmower.

I pay the bills and take care of our taxes. Debbie keeps the house clean and makes sure we always have clean clothes. I could easily count the number of times I have been allowed to do laundry.

Debbie has never appreciated my way of sorting laundry. She has always sorted laundry the traditional way, by colors.

When I was a single father, I always sorted clothes by wringlies-and-hangies.

Hangies were those things, like shirts and slacks, that need to be pulled from the dryer when they were still warm and placed on hangers, so they wouldn’t need to be ironed.

Wringlies were things like underwear, socks and jeans, that could rest comfortably in a cold drier until needed. The color of the fabric made no difference to me.

Not surprisingly, early in our marriage, I was banned from ever doing laundry.

If Debbie was out of town, I could wash my own things, but I was forbidden from touching any of Debbie’s things: strictly and absolutely forbidden.

But, oh, how things have changed.

We had an accident here at the Riley household two weeks ago. On that Tuesday, at 7 a.m., beautiful Ms. Debbie was walking downstairs to get the coffee pot started. It was supposed to be another typical Tuesday. It turned out to be anything but typical.

Halfway down the steps, her foot slipped and down she tumbled. Her ankle was turned in a horrible direction. My first impulse was to scoop her up and head to the hospital emergency room. Sadly, at 68 years old, my days of scooping and carrying another adult are far behind me.

Thankfully, EMS arrived just a few minutes after dialing 911. The good folks in the emergency room took excellent care of Debbie. Not only was her ankle dislocated, but at least two bones were broken.

The ER staff had her ankle re-set, casted and wrapped in no time. We were home well before noon. Debbie had strict instructions to put absolutely no weight on her right foot.

Then, last week Debbie had surgery — screws on one side of the ankle, metal plate and screws on the other side. The orthopedic surgeon was also emphatic … absolutely no weight-bearing on her right foot.

Needless to say, our division of chores has changed radically.

The day after surgery, I had Debbie safely settled in her “nest.” She was surrounded by her books, coffee cup, cell phone and iPad.

Jessi stopped by with our two youngest grandchildren, Clayton and Claire. I was busy unloading the washing machine and loading the dryer.

Claire saw me and stopped in her tracks. She put her little 3-year-old hands on her hips and said, “Pappy, that’s Memaw’s machine.”

We all laughed… especially Memaw.

Debbie’s broken ankle has definitely kicked me out of my comfort zone. I love being able to help Debbie. Pushing her around the house in her wheelchair, fixing her meals, cleaning the house, loading and unloading the dishwasher and even doing laundry (with her guidance) are just fine with me.

I’ve always enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone, pushing myself in new directions, trying new things. It’s fun and exciting, but I wasn’t expecting this.

It’s a good idea to occasionally move out of your comfort zone.

I just wish that Debbie was back on her own two feet; standing comfortably in her own personal comfort zone.

Doing her laundry makes me really nervous.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist